ASU speech therapy clinic helps the community, provides students with experience

The ASU Speech and Language Clinic provides hands-on experience for graduate students

The ASU Speech and Language Clinic offers a wide range of treatments for their clients, ranging from a stutter to speech issues from brain damage.

The clinic, located on the Tempe campus, is run by graduate students under the supervision of instructors and offers individual and group therapy for the general public and students.

Tracey Schnick, manager of business services for the clinic, said the program has been at ASU since at least the 1970s, and that around seven students utilize the clinic now.

In addition, the program also offers a class to help with accent modification for foreign students, she said.

"The clinic itself is a graduate training facility," she said. "Our students are learning how to be clinicians, each therapy session is led by a student, they do the development of the materials and administer the treatment, and they are supervised at all times by a licensed clinician."

Kelly Ingram, the clinical director, was a speech therapist for eight years before coming to ASU and has been working at the clinic for 20 years.

The most common reason for a student to go to the clinic is for a fluency disorder like stuttering, she said.

Ingram said students who work at the clinic also travel around the Valley to help clients at locations like Tempe High School and a local preschool. 

The clinic currently has about 80 clients, 60 of which are treated at the Tempe clinic and 20 spread out in other groups around the Valley, she said.

"It's also across the life path, from little babies who are born with a cleft palate, all the way up to elderly people who have had a stroke or have dementia," Ingram said.

She said there's one faculty member for about every five students who work in the clinic, and the student will provide all of the services in the clinic unless they are struggling.

"As faculty we are also teaching the classes," she said. "The variety of things to do is nice, but sometimes it can be hard to watch students do things that I would administer differently."

Ingram said there are various ways to help students through the process, depending on what the student or client is comfortable with.

"Most of us go in with the idea that it is a helping profession, and being able to provide to people who are struggling is very rewarding," she said.

Nicole Palmer, a second year graduate student studying communication disorders, is in her last semester working in the clinic after two years there.

Palmer said she was motivated to become a speech therapist after a family friend of hers had a stroke and needed speech therapy to recover.

"I always knew I wanted to help people, but I knew I didn't want to be a doctor," she said. "I didn't want to have the blood and gory side of helping people."

Now that she is further into the process, she said she wants to work in pediatric side of speech therapy and is excited to go into the world and help children.

"All of the clinical experience we get in grad school is 100 percent necessary," she said. "You learn how to not be intimidated by any situation after your first semester."

After her time at the clinic, she said she is well prepared to enter the field after college.

"Now I feel confident that I can go into the real world and conduct a therapy session," she said. "By your second year you are really doing things on your own and your supervisor isn't standing right over your shoulder, you are just getting feedback."

She said that overall, her whole experience with the clinic has been very rewarding.

"It is such a great feeling to know that your techniques are actually helping people," she said. "It is great to see that you are actually doing what you're meant to be doing."

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